About the Project

“RESIST” became the public outcry after the 2016 election, when the public faced the real possibility that rights might be rolled back or taken away from African Americans, non-European immigrants, and other people of color; women; people who identify as LGBTQ; religious minorities; and other vulnerable populations. Resistance, however, is not new. The theme of resistance runs through every major movement in the Philadelphia region’s history, with every challenge to the status quo being met with a counter-push.


PACSCL archivists and special collections librarians knew that a vast amount of evidence of that history is held where they work. They also knew that not all perspectives and accounts of resistance, activism, and organizing had been valued and collected equally, and that this needed to change. Stories from activists and their communities needed to be preserved, and more of their stories already held in the archives needed to be wider known. So PACSCL began Chronicling Resistance.

In Phase 1, Chronicling Resistance asked two questions:  “What are the large and small acts of resistance that have brought us to today, and how can more people know about them now and in the future?” In Phase 2, Chronicling Resistance transitions into a project about local libraries, archives, the people who use them, and the people who don’t. It’s a project about the history libraries and archives hold onto, the history we can find there easily, and the history that’s harder to trace. It’s about where we see ourselves in history and where we don’t. And it’s a project about the history we in Philadelphia create ourselves, every day, in small and large acts of resistance.

One important lesson we learned in Phase 1: The major barrier to connecting communities to archives is that a lot of people don’t know what materials are available and that they are available to anyoneTo help bridge this gap, we’re developing a resistance-themed database featuring a sliver of the resistance-related documents in PACSCL collections. The database will have search terms that make the documents easier to find digitally and in real life.

You can read all about what else we’ve learned and how we’ve learned it by visiting our blog.

Chronicling Resistance (formerly known as Chronicling Resistance, Enabling Resistance) is managed by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). Support for the research and development of this project was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Chronicling Resistance will be on hiatus the first quarter of 2020 as we establish funding for the project’s future. Read more about the project’s history here.


The Chronicling Resistance Team

Mariam Williams, Project Director

Zoe Jeka, Project Assistant, September 2018-May 2019


Steering Committee

Representatives from PACSCL’s member institutions are undertaking this project alongside the project director and assistant. They bring decades of experience as librarians and archivists and are actively engaged in work that (re)considers archives and libraries as tools of resistance.

Current Steering Committee:

  • Sarah Horowitz, Steering Committee Chair, Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Head of Quaker & Special Collections at Haverford College
  • Lois Fischer Black, Curator of Special Collections, Lehigh University Linderman Library
  • Laura Blanchard, PACSCL
  • Caitlin Goodman, Curator, Rare Books Department, Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Jasmine Smith, African American History Subject Specialist and Reference Librarian, Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Beth Hessel, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Athenaeum

Former Steering Committee Members:

  • Peter Conn, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Athenaeum
  • Rachel D’Agostino, Curator of Printed Books, Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Tim Murray, Head of Special Collections, University of Delaware Libraries
Thinking Partner Consultants, Discovery Phase
PACSCL engaged a diverse group of “thinking partner” consultants to its Chronicling Resistance project. These consultants joined with PACSCL members, the project staff, other cultural organizations, community groups and communities of activism to consider issues of resistance and memory.
    • Laurie Allen, University of Pennsylvania Library / Monument Lab
    • Rob Blackson, Temple Contemporary
    • Paul Farber, University of Pennsylvania / Monument Lab
    • Valerie Gay, Art Sanctuary
    • Melissa Hamilton, CultureWorks Philadelphia
    • Ivan Henderson, African American Museum in Philadlephia
    • Katherine Kane, Harriet Beecher Stowe House (emerita)
    • Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary
    • Nathaniel Popkin, Hidden City / History Making Productions
    • Matt Rader, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
    • Hazami Sayed, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture
    • Jessica Shupik, Public school teacher
    • Rebecca Traister, Journalist and author
    • Denise Valentine, Roots & Wings Storytelling
    • Morris Vogel, Tenement Museum


Resistance and YOU

Resistance takes shape in many different ways—in large, small, and everyday acts, and through people whose names we know and some people whose names we don’t know. How do you see yourself in Philadelphia’s resistance history? Would you have fought back against colonization? Been a revolutionary? Preserved your ancestral culture and traditions? Fed and clothed children in your community? Held hands in public with a forbidden partner? Stood against ratifying the 13th, 14th, or 19th amendments?

We’re building a resistance collections website to highlight some of the ways people have shown resistance throughout Philadelphia’s history. We’d also love to know more about your resistance story and how libraries and archives could be a partner in it. Please fill out our contact form and send us a message.

PACSCL member organizations that want to add documents to our collections website should click here.